The Eleusinian and Bacchic Mysteries, by Thomas Taylor, , at sacred-texts.com
Psyche Asleep in Hades.
The Dionysiacal sacred rites instituted by Orpheus, * depended on the following arcane narration, part of which has been already related in the preceding section, and the rest may be found in a variety of authors. “Dionysus, or Bacchus [Zagreus], while he was yet a boy, was engaged by the Titans, through the stratagems of Juno, in a variety of sports, with which that period of
life is so vehemently allured; and among the rest, he was particularly captivated with beholding his image in a mirror; during his admiration of which, he was miserably torn in pieces by the Titans; who, not content with this cruelty, first boiled his members in water, and afterwards roasted them by the fire. But while they were tasting his flesh thus dressed, Jupiter, roused by the odor, and perceiving the cruelty of the deed, hurled his thunder at the Titans; but committed the members of Bacchus to Apollo, his brother, that they might be properly interred. And this being performed, Dionysus (whose heart during his laceration was snatched away by Pallas and preserved), by a new regeneration again emerged, and being restored to his pristine life and integrity,
he afterwards filled up the number of the gods. But in the mean time, from the exhalations arising from the ashes of the burning bodies of the Titans, mankind were produced.” Now, in order to understand properly the secret of this narration, it is necessary to repeat the observation already made in the preceding chapter, “that all fables belonging to mystic ceremonies are of the mixed kind”: and consequently the present fable, as well as that of Proserpina, must in one part have reference to the gods, and in the other to the human soul, as the following exposition will abundantly evince:
In the first place, then, by Dionysus, or Bacchus, according to the highest conception of this deity, we understand the spiritual part of the mundane soul; for there are various processions or avatars of this god, or Bacchuses, derived from his essence. But by the Titans we must understand the mundane gods, of whom Bacchus is the highest; by Jupiter, the Demiurgus, * or artificer of
the universe; by Apollo, the deity of the Sun, who has both a mundane and super-mundane establishment, and by whom the universe is bound in symmetry and consent, through splendid reasons and harmonizing power; and, lastly, by Minerva we must understand that original, intellectual, ruling, and providential deity, who guards and preserves all middle lives * in an immutable condition, through intelligence and a self-supporting life, and by this means sustains them from the depredations and inroads of matter. Again, by the infancy of Bacchus at the period of his laceration, the condition of the intellectual nature is implied; since, according to the Orphic theology, souls, under the government of Saturn, or Kronos, who is pure intellect or spirituality, instead of proceeding, as now, from youth to age, advance in a retrograde progression from age to youth. † The arts employed by
the Titans, in order to ensnare Dionysius, are symbolical of those apparent and divisible energies of the mundane gods, through which the participated intellect of Bacchus becomes, as it were, torn in pieces; and by the mirror we must understand, in the language of Proclus, the inaptitude of the universe to receive the plenitude of intellectual perfection; but the symbolical meaning of his laceration, through the stratagems of Juno, and the consequent punishment of the Titans, is thus beautifully unfolded by Olympiodorus, in his MS. Commentary on the Phædo of Plato: “The form,” says he, “of that which is universal is plucked off, torn in pieces, and scattered into generation; and Dionysus is the monad of the Titans. But his laceration is said to take place through the stratagems of Juno,
because this goddess is the supervising guardian of motion and progression; * and on this account, in the Iliad, she perpetually rouses and excites Jupiter to providential action about secondary concerns; and, in another respect, Dionysus is the ephorus or supervising guardian of generation, because he presides over life and death; for he is the guardian or ephorus of life because of generation, and also of death because wine produces an enthusiastic condition. We become more enthusiastic at the period of dying, as Proclus indicates in the example of Homer who became prophetic [μαντικος] at the time of his death. † They likewise assert, that tragedy and comedy are assigned to Dionysus: comedy being the play or ludicrous representation of life; and tragedy having relation to the
passions and death. The comic writers, therefore, do not rightly call in question the tragedians as not rightly representing Bacchus, saying that such things did not happen to Bacchus. But Jupiter is said to have hurled his thunder at the Titans; the thunder signifying a conversion or changing: for fire naturally ascends; and hence Jupiter, by this means, converts the Titans to his own essence.” Σπαραττεται δε το καϑολου ειδος εν τῃ γενεσει, μονας δε Τιτανων ὁ Διονυσος.───Κατ επιβουλην δε της Ἡρας διοτι κινησεως εφορος ἡ ϑεος και προοδου. Διο και συνεχως εν τῃ Ιλιασι εξανιστησιν αυτη, και διεγορει τον δια εις προνοιαν των δευτερων. Και γενεσεως αλλως εφορος εστιν ὁ Διονυσος, διοτι και ζωης και τελευτης. Ζωης μεν γαρ εφορος, επειδη και της γενεσεως, τελευτης δε διοτι ενϑουσιαν ὁ οινος ποιει. Και περι την τελευτην δε ενϑουσιαστικωτεροι γινομεϑα, ὡς
δηλοι ὁ παῤ Ὁμηρῳ Προκλος, μαντικος γεγονως περι την τελευτην· και την τραγωδιαν, και την κωμωδιαν ανεισϑαι φασι τῳ Διονυσῳ. Την μεν κωμωδιαν παιγνιον ουσαν του βιον· την δε τραγωδιαν δια τα παϑη, και την τελευτην. Ουκ ἁρα καλως οἱ κωμικοι τοις τραγικοις εγκαλουσιν, ὡς μη Διονυσιακοις ουσιν, λεγον τες οτι ουδεν ταυτα προς τον Διονυσον. Κεραυνοι δε τουτοις ὁ Ζευς, του κεραυνου δηλουντος την επιστροφεν· πυργαρ επι τα ανω κινουμενα· επιστρεφει ουν αυτους προς εαυτον. But by the members of Dionysus being first boiled in water by the Titans, and afterward roasted by the fire, the outgoing or distribution of intellect into matter, and its subsequent returning from thence, is evidently implied: for water was considered by the Egyptians, as we have already observed, as the symbol of matter; and fire is the natural symbol of ascending. The heart of Dionysus too, is, with the greatest propriety, said to be preserved by Minerva; for this goddess is the guardian of life, of which the heart is a symbol. So that this part of the fable plainly signifies, that while intellectual or spiritual
life is distributed into the universe, its principle is preserved entire by the guardian power and providence of the Divine intelligence. And as Apollo is the source of all union and harmony, and as he is called by Proclus, “the key-keeper of the fountain of life,” * the reason is obvious why the members of Dionysus, which were buried by this deity, again emerged by a new generation, and were restored to their pristine integrity and life. But let it here be carefully observed, that renovation, when applied to the gods, is to be considered as secretly implying the rising of their proper light, and its consequent appearance to subordinate natures. And that punishment, when considered as taking place about beings of a nature superior to mankind, signifies nothing more than a secondary providence over such beings which is of a punishing character, and which subsists about souls that deteriorate. Hence, then, from what has been said, we may easily collect the ultimate design of the first part of this mystic fable; for it appears to be
no other than to represent the manner in which the form of the mundane intellect is divided through the universe;—that such an intellect (and every one which is total) remains entire during its division into parts, and that the divided parts themselves are continually turned again to their source, with which they become finally united. So that illumination from the higher reason, while it proceeds into the dark and rebounding receptacle of matter, and invests its obscurity with the supervening ornaments of divine light, returns at the same time without interruption to the source or principle of its descent.
Let us now consider the latter part of the fable, in which it is said that our souls were formed from the vapors emanating from the ashes of the burning bodies of the Titans; at the same time connecting it with the former part of the fable, which is also applicable in a certain degree to the condition of a partial intellect * like ours. In the first
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place, then, we are made up from fragments (says Olympiodorus), because, through falling into generation, our life has proceeded into the most distant and extreme division; and from Titanic fragments, because the Titans are the ultimate artificers of things, * and stand immediately next to whatever is constituted from them. But further, our irrational life is Titanic, by which the rational and higher life is torn in pieces. Hence, when we disperse the Dionysus, or intuitive intellect contained in the secret recesses of our nature, breaking in pieces the kindred and divine form of our essence, and which communicates, as it were, both with things subordinate and supreme, then we become Titans (or apostates); but when we establish ourselves in union with this Dionysiacal or kindred form, then we become Bacchuses, or perfect guardians and keepers of our irrational life: for Dionysus, whom in this respect we resemble, is himself an ephorus or
guardian deity, dissolving at his pleasure the bonds by which the soul is united to the body, since he is the cause of a parted life. But it is necessary that the passive or feminine nature of our irrational part, through which we are bound in body, and which is nothing more than the resounding echo, as it were, of soul, should suffer the punishment incurred by descent; for when the soul casts aside the [divine] peculiarity of her nature, she requires her own, but at the same time a multiform body, that she may again become in need of a common form, which she has lost through Titanic dispersion into matter.
But in order to see the perfect resemblance between the manner in which our souls descend and the dividing of the intuitive intellect by mundane natures, let the reader attend to the following admirable citation from the manuscript Commentary of Olympiodorus on the Phædo of Plato: “It is necessary, first of all, for the soul to place a likeness of herself in the body. This is to ensoul the body. Secondly, it is necessary
for her to sympathize with the image, as being of like idea. For every external form or substance is wrought into an identity with its interior substance, through an ingenerated tendency thereto. In the third place, being situated in a divided nature, it is necessary that she should be torn in pieces, and fall into a last separation, till, through the action of a life of purification, she shall raise herself from the dispersion, loose the bond of sympathy, and act as of herself without the external image, having become established according to the first-created life. The like things are fabled in the example. For Dionysus or Bacchus because his image was formed in a mirror, pursued it, and thus became distributed into everything. But Apollo collected him and brought him up; being a deity of purification, and the true savior of Dionysus; and on this account he is styled in the sacred hymns, Dionusites.” Ὁτι δει πρωτον ὑποστησαι εκονα την ψυχην εαυτου εν τῳ σωματι. Τουτο γαρ εστι ψυχωσαι το σωμα. Δευτερον δε συμπαϑειν τῳ ειδωλῳ, κατα την ὁμοειδειαν. Παν γαρ ειδος επειγεται
εις την προς εαυτο ταυτοητα δια την προς εαυτο συνευσιν εμφυτον. Τριτον εν τῳ μερισμῳ γενομενην συνδιαπασϑηναι αυτῳ, και εις τον εσχατον εκπεσειν μερισμον. Ἑως αν δαι της καϑαρτιηκης ζωης συναγειραι μεν ἑαυτην απο του σκορπισμου, λυση δε τον δεσμον της συμηπαϑειας, προβαλλεται δε την ανευ του ειδωλου, καϑ εαυτην ἑστωσαν πρωτουργον ζωην. Ὁτι τα ὁμοια μυϑευεται, και εν τῳ παραδειγματι. Ὁ γαρ Διονυσος, ὁτι το ειδωλον ενεϑηκε τω εσοπτρω τουτῳ εφεσπετο. Και ὁυτως εις το παν εμερισϑη. Ὁ δε Απολλων συναγειρει τε αυτον και αναγει, καϑαρτικος ων ϑεος, και του Διονυσου σωτηρ ως αλῳϑως. Και δια τουτο Διονυσοτης ανυμειται. Hence, as the same author beautifully observes, the soul revolves according to a mystic and mundane revolution: for flying from an indivisible and Dionysiacal life, and operating according to a Titanic and revolting energy, she becomes bound in the body as in a prison. Hence, too, she abides in punishment and takes care of her partial and secondary concerns; and being purified from Titanic defilements, and collected into one, she becomes
a Bacchus; that is, she passes into the proper integrity of her nature according to the divine principle ruling on high. From all which it evidently follows, that he who lives Dionysiacally rests from labors and is freed from his bonds; * that he leaves his prison, or rather his apostatizing life; and that he who does this is a philosopher purifying himself from the contaminations of his earthly life. But farther from this account of Dionysus, we may perceive the truth of Platos observation, “that the design of the Mysteries is to lead us back to the perfection from which, as our beginning, we first made our descent.” For in this perfection Dionysus himself subsists, establishing perfect souls in the throne of his father; that is, in the integrity of a life according to Jupiter. So that he who is perfect necessarily resides with the gods, according to the design of those deities, who are the sources of consummate perfection to the soul. And lastly,
the Thyrsus itself, which was used in the Bacchic procession, as it was a reed full of knots, is an apt symbol of the diffusion of the higher nature into the sensible world. And agreeable to this, Olympiodorus on the Phædo observes, “that the Thyrsus * is a symbol of a forming anew of the material and parted substance from its scattered condition; and that on this account it is a Titanic plant. This it was customary to extend before Bacchus instead of his paternal scepter; and through this they called him down into our partial nature. Indeed, the Titans are Thyrsus-bearers; and Prometheus concealed fire in a Thyrus or reed; after which he is considered as bringing celestial light into generation, or leading the soul into the body, or calling forth the divine illumination, the whole being ungenerated, into generated existence. Hence Socrates calls the multitude Thyrsus-bearers Orphically, as living according to a Titanic life.” Ὁτι ὁ ναρϑηξ συμβολον εστι της ενυλου δημιουργιας, και μεριστης, δια
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Faun and Bacchante. Thyrsus-Bearer. Bacchante and Faun.
την μαλιστα διεσπαρμενην συνεχειαν, οϑεν και Τιτανικον το φυτον. Και γαρ τῳ Διονυσῳ προτεινουσιν αυτῳ, αντι του πατρικου σκηπτρου. Και ταυτῃ προκαλουνται αυτον εις τον μερικον. Και μεντοι, και ναρϑηκοφορουσιν οἱ Τιτανες, και ὁ Προμηϑευς, εν ναρϑηκϊ κλεπτι το πυρ, ειτε το ουρανιον φως εις την γενεσιν κατασπων, ειτε την ψυχην εις το σωμα προαγων, ειτε την ϑειαν ελλαμψιν ὁλην αγεννητον ουσαν, εις την γενεσιν προκαλουμενος. Δια δε τουτο, και ὁ Σωκρατης τους πολλους καλει ναρϑηκοφορους Ορφικως, ὡς ζωντας Τιτανικως.
And thus much for the secret meaning of the fable, which formed a principal part of these mystic rites. Let us now proceed to consider the signification of the symbols, which, according to Clemens Alexandrinus, belonged to the Bacchic ceremonies; and which are comprehended in the following Orphic verses:
Κωνος, και ρομβος, και παιγνια καμπεσιγυια
Μηλα τε χρυσεα καλα παῤ ἑσπεριδων λιγυφωνων.
A wheel, a pine-nut, and the wanton plays,
Which move and bend the limbs in various ways:
With these th Hesperian golden-fruit combine,
Which beauteous nymphs defend of voice divine.
To all which Clemens adds εσοπτρον, esoptron, a mirror, ποκος, pokos, a fleece of wool, and αστραγαλος, astragalos, the ankle-bone. In the first place, then, with respect to the wheel, since Dionysus, as we have already explained, is the mundane intellect, and intellect is of an elevating and convertive nature, nothing can be a more apt symbol of intellectual action than a wheel or sphere: besides, as the laceration and dismemberment of Dionysus signifies the going-forth of intellectual illumination into matter, and its returning at the same time to its source, this too will be aptly symbolized by a wheel. In the second place, a pine-nut, from its conical shape, is a perspicuous symbol of the manner in which intellectual or spiritual illumination proceeds from its source and beginning into a material nature. “For the soul,” says Macrobius, * “proceeding from a round figure, which is the only divine form, is extended into the form of a cone in going forth.”
[paragraph continues] And the same is true symbolically of the higher intellect. And as to the wanton sports which bend the limbs, this evidently alludes to the Titanic arts, by which Dionysus was allured, and occultly signifies the faculties of the mundane intellect, considered as subsisting according to an apparent and divisible condition. But the Hesperian golden-apples signify the pure and incorruptible nature of that intellect or Dionysus, which is possessed by the world; for a golden-apple, according to Sallust, is a symbol of the world; and this doubtless, both on account of its external figure, and the incorruptible intellect which it contains, and with the illuminations of which it is externally adorned; since gold, on account of never being subject to rust, aptly denotes an incorruptible and immaterial nature. The mirror, which is the next symbol, we have already explained. And as to the fleece of wool, this is a symbol of laceration, or distribution of intellect, or Dionysus, into matter; for the verb σπαραττω, sparatto, dilanio, which is used in the relation of the Bacchic discerption, signifies to tear in pieces
like wool: and hence Isidorus derives the Latin word lana, wool, from laniando, as vellus from vellendo. Nor must it pass unobserved, that λῆνος, in Greek, signifies wool, and ληνὸς, a wine-press. * And, indeed, the pressing of grapes is as evident a symbol of dispersion as the tearing of wool; and this circumstance was doubtless one principal reason why grapes were consecrated to Bacchus: for a grape, previous to its pressure, aptly represents that which is collected into one; and when it is pressed into juice, it no less aptly represents the diffusion of that which was before collected and entire. And lastly, the αστραγαλος, astragalos, or ankle-bone, as it is principally subservient to the progressive motion of animals, so it belongs, with great propriety, to the mystic symbols of Bacchus; since it doubtless signifies the going forth of that deity into the department of physical existence: for nature, or that divisible life which subsists about the body,
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and which is productive of seeds, immediately depends on Bacchus. And hence we are informed by Proclus, that the sexual parts of this god are denominated by theologists, Diana, who, says he, presides over the whole of the generation into natural existence, leads forth into light all natural reasons, and extends a prolific power from on high even to the subterranean realms. * And hence we may perceive the reason why, in the Orphic Hymn to Nature, that goddess is described as “turning round silent traces with the ankle-bones of her feet.”
Αψοφον αστραγαλοισι ποδων ιχνος ειλισσουσα.
And it is highly worthy our observation that in this verse of the hymn Nature is celebrated as Fortune, according to that description of the goddess in which she is represented as standing with her feet on a wheel which she continually turns round; as the following verse from the same hymn abundantly confirms:
Αεναῳ στροφαλιγγι ϑοον ῥυμα δινευουσα.
The sense of which is, “moving with rapid motion on an eternal wheel.” Nor ought it to seem wonderful that Nature should he celebrated as Fortune; for Fortune in the Orphic hymn to that deity is invoked as Diana: and the moon, as we have observed in the preceding section, is the αυτοπτον αγαλμα φυσεως, the self-revealing emblem of Nature; and indeed the apparent inconstancy of Fortune has an evident agreement with the fluctuating condition in which the dominions of nature are perpetually involved.
It only now remains that we explain the secret meaning of the sacred dress with which the initiated in the Dionysiacal Mysteries were invested, in order to the θρονισμος (thronismos, enthroning) taking place; or sitting in a solemn manner on a throne, about which it was customary for the other initiates to dance. But the particulars of this habit are thus described in the Orphic verses preserved by Macrobius: *
Ταυτα γε παντα τελειν ἱερᾳ σκηυῃ πυκασαντα,
Σωμα ϑεου πλαττειν εριαυγους ἡελιοιο.
Πρωτα μεν αργυφεαις εναλιγκιον ακτινεσσιν
Πεπλον φοινικερον (lege φοινικεον) πρυΐικελον αμφιβαλεσϑαι.
Αυταρ ὑπερϑε νεβροιο παναιολου εἱρυ καϑαψαι
Δερμα πολυστικτον ϑηρος κατα δεξιον ὡμον,
Αστρων δαιδαλεων μιμιμ ἱερου τε πολοιο.
Εἱτα δ ὑπερϑε νεβρης χρυσεον ζωστηρα βαλεσϑαι
Παμφανοωντα περιξ στερνων φορεειν μεγα σημα
Ευϑυς ὁτ εκ περατων Γαιης φαεϑων ανορουσων
Χρυσειαις ακτισι βαλῃ ῥοον Οκεανοιο,
Αυγη δ ἁσπετος ἡ, ανα δ δροσῳ αμφιμιγεισα
Μαρμαιρῃ δινῃσιν ελισσομενη κατα κυκλον,
Προσϑε ϑεου. Ζωνη δ αρ ὑπο στερνων αμετρητων
Φαινετ αρ Ωκεανου κυκλος, μεγα ϑαυμ εισιδεσϑαι.
He who desires in pomp of sacred dress
The suns resplendent body to express,
Should first a vail assume of purple bright,
Like fair white beams combind with fiery light:
On his right shoulder, next, a mules broad hide
Widely diversified with spotted pride
Should hang, an image of the pole divine,
And dædal stars, whose orbs eternal shine.
A golden splendid zone, then, oer the vest
He next should throw, and bind it round his breast;
In mighty token, how with golden light,
The rising sun, from earths last bounds and night
Sudden emerges, and, with matchless force,
Darts through old Oceans billows in his course.
A boundless splendor hence, enshrind in dew,
Plays on his whirlpools, glorious to the view;
While his circumfluent waters spread abroad,
Full in the presence of the radiant god:
But Oceans circle, like a zone of light,
The suns wide bosom girds, and charms the wondring sight.
In the first place, then, let us consider why this mystic dress belonging to Bacchus is to represent the sun. Now the reason of this will be evident from the following observations: according to the Orphic theology, the divine intellect of every planet is denominated a Bacchus, who is characterized in each by a different appellation; so that the intellect of the solar deity is called Trietericus Bacchus. And in the second place, since the divinity of the sun, according to the arcana of the ancient theology, has a super-mundane as well as mundane establishment, and is wholly of an exalting or intellectual nature; hence considered as super-mundane he must both produce and contain the mundane intellect, or Dionysus, in his essence; for all the mundane are contained in the super-mundane deities, by whom also they are produced. Hence Proclus, in his elegant Hymn to the Sun, says:
Σε κλυτον ὑμνειουσι Διωνυσσοιο τοκηα.
That is, “they celebrate thee in hymns as the illustrious parent of Dionysus.” And thirdly, it is through the subsistence of Dionysus in the sun that that luminary derives its circular motion, as is evident from the following Orphic verse, in which, speaking of the sun, it is said of him, that
────Διονυσος δ επεκληϑη,
Ουνεκα δινειται κατ απειρονα μακρον Ολυμπον.
“He is called Dionysus, because he is carried with a circular motion through the immensely-extended heavens.” And this with the greatest propriety, since intellect, as we have already observed, is entirely of a transforming and elevating nature: so that from all this, it is sufficiently evident why the dress of Dionysus is represented as belonging to the sun. In the second place, the vail, resembling a mixture of fiery light, is an obvious image of the solar fire. And as to the spotted mule-skin, * which is to represent the starry heavens, this is nothing more than an image of
the moon; this luminary, according to Proclus on Hesiod, resembling the mixed nature of a mule; “becoming dark through her participation of earth, and deriving her proper light from the sun.” Γης μεν εχουσα το σκοτιζεσϑαι, ἡλιου δε το οικειον ειληχεναι φως. Ταυτη μεν ουν οικειωται προς αυτην ἡ ἡμιονος. So that the spotted hide signifies the moon attended with a multitude of stars: and hence, in the Orphic Hymn to the Moon, that deity is celebrated “as shining surrounded with beautiful stars”: καλοις αστροισι βρυουσα, and is likewise called αστραρχη, astrarché, or “queen of the stars.”
In the next place, the golden zone is the circle of the Ocean, as the last verses plainly evince. But, you will ask, what has the rising of the sun through the ocean, from the boundaries of earth and night, to do with the adventures of Bacchus? I answer, that it is inpossible to devise a symbol more beautifully accommodated to the purpose: for, in the first place, is not the ocean a proper emblem of an earthly nature, whirling and
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The Marriage of Mars and Venus.
stormy, and perpetually rolling without admitting any periods of repose? And is not the sun emerging from its boisterous deeps a perspicuous symbol of the higher spiritual nature, apparently rising from the dark and fluctuating material receptacle, and conferring form and beauty on the sensible universe through its light? I say apparently rising, for though the spiritual nature always diffuses its splendor with invariable energy, yet it is not always perceived by the subjects of its illuminations: besides, as psychical natures can only receive partially and at intervals the benefits of the divine irradiation; hence fables regarding this temporal participation transfer, for the purpose of concealment and in conformity to the phenomena, the imperfection of subordinate natures to such as are supreme. This description, therefore, of the rising sun, is a most beautiful symbol of the new birth of Bacchus, which, as we have already observed, implies nothing more than the rising of intellectual light, and its consequent manifestation to subordinate orders of existence.
And thus much for the mysteries of Bacchus, which, as well as those of Ceres, relate in one part to the descent of a partial intellect into matter, and its condition while united with the dark tenement of the body: but there appears to be this difference between the two, that in the fable of Ceres and Proserpine the descent of the whole rational soul is considered; and in that of Bacchus the scattering and going forth of that supreme part alone of our nature which we properly characterize by the appellation of intellect. * In the composition of each we may discern the same traces of exalted wisdom and recondite theology; of a theology the most venerable for its antiquity, and the most admirable for its excellence and reality.
I shall conclude this treatise by presenting the reader with a valuable and most elegant hymn of Proclus † to Minerva, which I have
discovered in the British Museum; and the existence of which appears to have been hitherto utterly unknown. This hymn is to be found among the Harleian Manuscripts, in a volume containing several of the Orphic hymns, with which, through the ignorance of transcriber, it is indiscriminately ranked, as well as the other four hymns of Proclus, already printed in the Bibliotheca Græca of Fabricius. Unfortunately too, it is transcribed in a character so obscure, and with such great inaccuracy, that, notwithstanding the pains I have taken to restore the text to its original purity, I have been obliged to omit two lines, and part of a third, as beyond my abilities to read or amend; however, the greatest, and doubtless the most important part, is fortunately intelligible, which I now present to the readers inspection, accompanied with some corrections, and an English paraphrased translation. The original is highly elegant and pious, and contains one mythological particular, which is no where else to be found. It has likewise an evident connection with the preceding fable of Bacchus,
as will be obvious from the perusal; and on this account principally it was inserted in the present discourse.
187:* Whether Orpheus was an actual living person has been questioned by Aristotle; but Herodotus, Pindar, and other writers, mention him. Although the Orphic system is asserted to have come from Egypt, the internal evidence favors the opinion that it was derived from India, and that its basis is the Buddhistic philosophy. The Orphic associations of Greece were ascetic, contrasting markedly with the frenzies, enthusiasm, and license of the popular rites. The Thracians had numerous Hindu customs. The name Koré is Sanscrit; and Zeus may be the Dyaus of Hindu story. His visit to the chamber of Koré-Persephoneia (Parasu-pani) in the form of a dragon or naga, and the horns or crescent on the head of the child, are Tartar or Buddhistic. The p. 188 name Zagreus is evidently Chakra, or ruler of the earth. The Hera who compassed his death is Aira, the wife of Buddha; and the Titans are the Daityas, or apostate tribes of India. The doctrine of metempsychosis is expressed by the swallowing of the heart of the murdered child, so as to reabsorb his soul, and bring him anew into existence as the son of Semelé. Indeed, all the stories of Bacchus have Hindu characteristics; and his cultus is a part of the serpent worship of the ancients. The evidence appears to us unequivocal.
189:* Plotinus regarded the Demiurgus, or creator, as the god of providence, thought, essence, and power. Above him was the p. 190 deity of “pure intellect,” and still higher The One. These three were the hypostases.
190:* Lives which are not conjoined with material bodies, nor yet elevated to the lofty state which is the true divine condition.
190:† Emanuel Swedenborg says: “They who are in heaven are p. 191 continually advancing to the spring of life, and the more thousands of years they live, so much the more delightful and happy is the spring to which they attain, and this to eternity with increments according to the progresses and degrees of love, of charity, and of faith. Women who have died old and worn out with age, yet have lived in faith on the Lord, in charity toward their neighbor, and in happy conjugal love with a husband, after a succession of years, come more and more into the flower of youth and adolescence.”
192:* By progression [προοδος] is here signified the raying-out, or issuing forth of the soul; having left the divine or pre-existent life, and come forth toward the human.
192:† See also Plato: Phædrus, 43. “When I was about to cross the river, the divine and wonted signal was given me—it always deters me from what I am about to do—and I seemed to hear a voice from this very spot, which would not suffer me to depart before I had purified myself, as if I had committed some p. 193 offense against the Deity. Now I am a prophet, though not a very good one: for the soul is in some measure prophetic.”
See also Shakspere: Henry IV. part 1.
“Oh I could prophesy,
But that the earthy and cold hand of death
Lies on my tongue.”
195:* Hymn to the Sun.
196:* Partial, as being parted from the Supreme Mind.
199:* The Demiurge or Creator being superior to matter in which is concupiscence and all evil, the Titans who are not thus superior are made the actual artificers.
203:* “We strive toward virtue by a strenuous use of the gifts which God communicates; but when God communicates himself, then we can be only passive—we repose, we enjoy, but all operation ceases.”
204:* The word thyrsus, it will be seen, is here translated from ναρϑηξ, a rod or ferula.
208:* In Somnia Scipionis, xii.
210:* The practice of punning, so common in all the old rites, is here forcibly exhibited. It aided to conceal the symbolism and mislead uninitiated persons who might seek to ascertain the genuine meaning.
213:* Commentary upon the Timæus.
214:* Saturnalia, i. 18.
217:* Nebris is also a fawn-skin. The Jewish high-priest wore one at the great festivals. It is rendered “badgers skin” in the Bible. In India the robe of Indra is spotted.
222:* Greek, νους, nous, the Intuitive Reason, that faculty of the mind that apprehends the Ineffable Truth.
222:† That the following hymn was composed by Proclus, can not be doubted by any one who is conversant with those already extant of this incomparable man, since the spirit and manner in both is perfectly the same.